Work Harder, Not Smarter

I recently spent some time away recovering from my wintertime bout of burnout. Amid the long drives to and from and a decent amount of reading, relaxing, and yahtzee playing, I discovered the rejuvenating, relaxing power of plain manual labor.

I didn’t realize how emotionally taxing this industry is. Yes, my friends and colleagues had been stressing the difficulty of emotional labor and I was on board in principle, but I thought myself uniquely suited to it, a bottomless reservoir of emotional energy and presence supporting myself and my clients. When it finally ran out I was absolutely baffled. The slogan I poked at a few weeks ago suddenly made the kind of sense that settles into your gut and finally feels true.

But more on that next week.

I want to first of all brag a little and second share something I’m probably behind the curve on realizing.

I know a few women who show a certain learned helplessness around so-called manly things. Tools and cars and plumbing intimidate them to the point of aversion; they wont even try to troubleshoot an issue before laying at their man’s feet. Between critical reasoning, youtube, and user manuals, I can’t imagine not tackling any problem from properly filling in my eyelashes to replacing broken plumbing.

So I did!! Over the course of several days I helped refurbish, replace, and upgrade four or five half-day projects at the family property out in Eastern Washington. Nothing major, but I learned to install pex tubing, weeded rich, dark flowerbeds, roamed purposefully through the aisles of the local Home Depot, cleaned out a decade’s accumulated debris, and sat back after hours of hard, relatively mindless work feeling like I had just kicked some serious ass.

Why am I even talking about this? First because it’s cool and reinforces my own view of myself as a multifaceted, capable individual. Because for once the physical work wasn’t for anyone but myself, done for no other reason than to get it one. Because this is the first time I’ve felt such a strong contrast between emotional labor and manual labor. Because when working on a project like replacing an appliance, there is a clear end and benefit and you can show it off to others. Because there’s a sense of closure that is immensely satisfying. Because you can clear your mind and listen to the radio while you’re working which you absolutely cannot do in sex work. At least I can’t.

It was a huge relief to zone out and pull plants instead of focusing my attention on a client who needs my presence for all of our time together. I do love my work, but I’ve learned I need to make physical work a deliberate part of my emotional self care moving forward. I’ve signed up for sailing classes, will be researching chair building techniques and locations, and will be taking more half days to get out and complete small projects.

As I said above, I’m amazed and a bit ashamed it’s taken me so long to not only learn the value of a simple job done well but to recognize the effort and energy involved in sex work and value that as well. I’m headed out again this Sunday to get more stuff done! I hope to catch you before I go but if not, Rose can set up a get together after I get back Wednesday.